Taking lives into account

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Taking lives into account

About 60 billion won ($52.5 million) in government funds goes annually toward operating golf clubs for soldiers.

A sizable portion of the annual defense budget, worth 40 trillion, is also set aside for senior military officials’ personal expenses.

Their entitlements are as generous as those offered in advanced countries. But compared to the luxuries offered to senior officials, the spending on conscripted soldiers is pitiful.

The Ministry of National Defense recently refused to pay the medical expenses for a soldier injured from an explosion during a drill near the border in June 2014.

Afterward, the soldier’s mother took to the Internet to detail her son’s ordeal and the personal difficulties that resulted from the incident.

The military is responsible not only for maiming the conscript, but also forcing his family into debt.

He went through two military hospitals and was finally transferred to a private hospital because their were no surgeons at the military facilities to operate.

Citing regulations, the Defense Ministry notified his family that the government could only pay for his private hospital costs for just 30 days. Then when his story went public, the ministry promised to shoulder all medical costs for soldiers injured while on duty.

That, however, was a lie.

Under the revised pension law for soldiers, the government can subsidize up to 30 days of private hospital fees for injured soldiers, and the ministry promised it would fully cover the man’s treatment when it came under fire - but his family has already spent some 7.5 million won.

The state cannot seriously expect conscripted soldiers to stake their lives to defend the country if it cannot even pay for their medical expenses. Is a soldier’s life less of a priority than maintaining a golf club for senior officials?

The ministry must answer to that.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 7, Page 30

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